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Gary HodgesGary Hodges   AFC, SWLA Gary Hodges
Specialising exclusively in graphite pencil drawings.
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Background to the drawing. The memories and reference photos were taken in 2008 during the same time as my last hippos drawing BABY LOVE. We saw these scenes in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, East Africa and watched the hippos for around 45 minutes. It was a dull, overcast day and even managed to rain a bit. But the experience was brilliant and inspiring.

My camera was playing up that day and completely gave up at one point, so I used both mine and my partner Dave’s photos as reference material. Handy to have a back-up photographer around, especially one with a degree in photography! As we are in the same vehicle and seeing the same animals, many of our photos are similar. The main differences are, his are better and I take more just for reference purposes and very much with drawings in mind.

Stage 1
After gathering all the reference material together I began sketching on 24th July 2012.

Potentially, this hippo drawing would look really powerful and impressive at around five or six feet but I decided to settle on a more comfortable sized drawing so not to over tax myself i.e. Nile Crocodile!

I used a 2H pencil for my sketch, a plastic eraser for creating the highlights and my clean fingers to gently smudge. I always use a piece of recycled paper to rest my hands on to prevent unwanted smudging.... although it happens a bit anyway, no matter what you do.

I spent two and a half hours to get to this stage, making sure the proportions were correct.

Stage 2
Two and a half hours later....

I used a 2H pencil, and a B for the darker areas and an eraser for the highlights. I built up the tone to this point by going over layer upon layer. I sometime use a blending stump, tightly rolled up paper made into a stick, useful for fine areas like folds and creases in the hide.

Stage 3
Two hours drawing later....

I started putting sharper detail in the eye first and then other areas of the face and neck using B, H, 2H and 4H pencils. I also used a plastic eraser and Blu-Tack to make highlights. Blu-Tack is great for lifting off graphite in fine areas and you can mold it into many different shapes.

There is still loads more work to do on all these areas.

Stage 4
Three and a quarter hours later….

It's funny how some days I manage to get a lot drawn in a short space of time. Today was one of those days. Everything seemed to flow very easily. There was very little conscious thinking, just action!

This is something that has been lacking recently (before the zebra foal). I spent too much time being hesitant and going over the same areas again and again. By drawing the zebra and now starting the hippos, hopefully I've got over this dry period which has lasted quite a few years. I'd say Baby Love was the last new drawing that flowed easily.

I used all the same pencils and materials as yesterday, but focused more on 2 and 4H pressing harder. When I do this, it’s a sign of confidence on my part... that I feel sure I'm making the right pencil strokes and marks.

Stage 5
Five hours later over a few days…

I've just carried on layer upon layer until the drawing "looks" right...I'm getting there. On the very light areas of the adult, I used a 7H pencil. The body of the mother now has a solid, round feel. She is more or less finished, but I'll darken little areas right at the end and maybe play around with other bits in the meantime. By the way I haven't finished the back ear.

Stage 6
Four hours later drawn over two days….

I usually draw in spurts of between 1/4 hour to 1 1/4 hours. I stop for a tea or water break to ease the tension of back, eyes and hands. While drawing I regularly stand back for a few seconds to "look" at my drawing, to check it’s going right.

The pencils I have used most during these 4 hours are 2H and 4H, pressing hard to get the leathery feel of the hide. If you‘ve seen me draw via the two documentaries made about my art, you’ll know my pencils strokes are neither delicate or particularly slow. It surprised me when I watched myself for the first time on camera!

Stage 7
Two and three quarter hours later….

Although the hippos aren’t finished I decided to start drawing in the water, to give a better feel of the whole drawing. It surprised me how quickly it got to this point! I just went and drew without hesitation. The water could have very easily gone horribly wrong, after all those hours drawing the hippos. This was more or less my vision of the drawing from the start, wanting it to look bright and shimmering.

I used an H and 2H pencils, a plastic eraser and my fingers to smudge to get to this point.

You may notice I've altered the crop of the drawing adding more space at the bottom and a bit less at the top. I think this makes it more unusual.

It is not finished yet. I have to tighten up the patterns of the water. I will then clean up the whole picture, sharpen lines and darken odd little areas before fixing it.

Stage 8
Two and three quarter hours later over three days…

I decided to change the patterns on the water a little. I added more white shapes within the darker areas, which make it look even brighter. I also altered the water shapes towards the bottom of the paper...made them less cartoony and swirly.

I made sure everything looked about right, cleaned all over with an eraser then gave a spray of fixative. Then using Derwent onyx pencils, medium and dark, I added extra depth to the hippos. Fixed again and gave a last minute fiddle with detail where I saw fit, then another spray. Now I will leave alone for a while.

I THINK it is finished...we'll see.

Stage 9
Three hours later over three days….

After a week or so away from this drawing and seeing with fresh eyes, I realised some of the water patterns weren’t right; the reflections of the mother hippo's back at the highest point wasn’t echoed in the water. I also made other small changes to the water to better balance the whole drawing.

I softened the leathery highlights on the mother’s body, neck and head slightly by gently shading over with a 4H pencil. Using Derwent Onyx dark pencils, I darkened tiny areas to bring the drawing to life even more, creating a fuller, punchier tone. Once satisfied, I then gave a final fix over the drawing.

During these last 3 hours I stood back even more often to “look” at my picture, to make sure I was making the right slight changes in tone and pattern.

I am now happy…. in fact, very happy.

This drawing has taken me twenty seven and three quarter hours of actual hands-on drawing time (I don’t count tea/water breaks). As mentioned earlier this picture flowed very easily. I think three years ago I would have spent treble that amount of time, hesitating and going over the same areas again and again. It looks all the cleaner for it.

During this whole period, we had various friends staying with us in our summer rental home in the mountains of Andalucía. We went out sight-seeing most days so my drawing times were more fractured than usual. This wasn’t a problem. It just made me all the more eager to draw.

Drawing finally completed on 22nd August 2012.

Stage 10
Well I thought it was finished! I spent time over a few days looking at the drawing and noticed a few very minor changes I wanted to make before handing it over finally to the printers. Small alterations were made to the adult hippo, darkening areas, evenning out tone etc. I spent an extra one and three quarter hours on this over three days. The total time spent on this drawing has been twenty nine and a half hours and was absolutely and finally completed on 4th September 2012!

The title is SHIMMER. It is published as a limited edition print. The edition size is 250 copies plus 25 artist proofs and you can order now through this website.

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